Top 10 Mistakes New Fish Owners Make – #6

The #6 Mistake – Not Storing Fish Food Properly

What is the best way to store any pet food? Rather than roll up the bag and toss it in the corner, all pet food should be kept in an airtight, opaque storage container in cooler temperatures of a pantry or closet. And fish food is no exception.

Also keep in mind that fish food starts to lose water-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin C, as soon as you open it. Within a few months, there is barely any available vitamin C left. (Sources here, here and here.) Vitamin loss can be prevented by properly storing your fish food. All fish food should be kept in an airtight container, in a cool place out of the sun.

Fish Flakes

Due to their high surface to mass ratio, fish flakes lose vitamin C faster than any other fish food. If your fish can handle a pellet, switch them over. These days they come in very tiny sizes!

Fish Pellets

Most of these products now come in light-proof, re-sealing pouches, which is great! Keep them in a cool place out of direct sunlight to keep them in good condition.

Koi Food

Even though your koi live outside, your food should not! If it is not in a re-sealing bag, keep all food in an airtight container in a cool place, out of the sun.

Since the temperature of a koi pond can vary widely, make sure you are feeding a temperature-appropriate diet. Higher protein foods are fed with warmer water.

For more on fish nutrition, check out our Fish Food Nutrition webinar:

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Preventing Disease in Fish Tanks and Ponds

Preventing Disease in Fish Tanks and Ponds

Everyone always wants to know how to keep their fish system from becoming infested with some horrible disease that puts all their fish at risk. Well, it’s a lot simpler than you think!

  1. Quarantine. Quarantine. Quarantine. This includes plants and ALL NEW FISH. The stress of handling and transport is enough to make even the healthiest of fish turn on your tanks inhabitants. Fish cannot be sterilized and always have pathogens on them, including parasites, bacteria and fungi. Most problems occur when new fish, invertebrates or plants are added to an established system. Set up a separate hospital tank and have it at the ready whenever new fish are on their way in. 4-6 weeks is the MINIMUM requirement for all new additions. For more information, be sure to watch our Quarantine Practices webinar!
  2. Maintain your water quality through consistent maintenance, proper feeding and adequate filtration. Water quality is the #1 thing owners can do to keep their fish healthy. Get a test kit, know how to use it and what normal parameters look like. Not all fish systems will be identical! Keep up with your maintenance. If everything is a bit discombobulated, use these handy checklists for tanks and ponds.
  3. Feed your fish a good quality diet that is species appropriate. Look for a food with appropriate levels of protein, fat and carbohydrates. We are happy to give consults on diet for FREE. If you want to learn more about fish diets, watch our webinar.
  4. Note any signs of disease early and take precautionary measures. You set up that hospital tank, right? Learn the physical and behavioral signs of disease in fish through our free webinar.
  5. If you think something is wrong, ASK NOW! Don’t wait until a small problem becomes big and hard to manage. Our job is to help you take care of your fish, plain and simple. We can work within your budget to make sure your fish get the care they need. Call us at (831) 346-6151 or email hospital@cafishvet.com.

Follow those rules and your fish will thank you! Being healthy and disease free is the way to be, no matter what your species!

What do I feed my fish?

If you own any pets, I guarantee you have fallen victim to pet food marketing. It happens to all of us, even veterinarians, causing us to question the education we received on just this topic. “Grain free,” “gluten free,” “all natural,” “organic” and other buzzwords are dropped at lightning speed to confuse the consumer into purchasing based on just how many of these words can fit on a package. And fish diets are no exception. Sure, they may not get the press of the cat and dog food, but a lot of little containers can fit into a very small shelf, causing fish owners eyes to glaze over just taking in the sheer magnitude of choices. Many owners will be drawn to either the flashiest packaging or cheapest price. It’s just a fish, right? Well, just like the food you eat yourself and feed to your fluffy pets, fish rely on good nutrition in order to stay healthy. By purchasing a quality fish product, you can improve your fishes’ lives significantly.

So how do I choose a quality product?

The best consumer is an informed consumer. We have a great webinar that is recommended by many of the top fish food companies. It breaks down how to read the labels on the back of fish food containers. There are considerably less items to peruse than your regular box of supermarket crackers.

Don’t have time to watch? Let’s break it down to the simplest parts.

Pellets vs. Flakes

This rule is easy to follow. If a pellet fits into your fish’s mouth, go with the pellet. This is due to surface to mass ratio and water soluble vitamins. Consider how much contact a flake has with the air and water in comparison to a pellet. A big, wide flat flake will lose more of its water soluble vitamins, including vitamin C, faster than a concentrated pellet. No matter how long the container has been open, pellets win.

The 6 Month Rule

I don’t care what is printed on your container; after you break the bag or jar open, you have 6 months to feed that food, then toss it. At the end of those 6 months, the water soluble vitamins, again, are so reduced, you might as well be feeding your fish cardboard. Those dates are printed on the outside in the event the store doesn’t sell the food by then.

“Crude”

This is listed on the ingredient list as “crude protein,” “crude fat” and “crude fiber.” This does not refer to petrol and is instead the method of testing.

Protein

All animals need protein to survive. Fish can be herbivores, omnivores or carnivores. Herbivores and omnivores need between 35-45% protein in their food. Carnivores require 40-55%. The protein source must contain all essential amino acids for the fish to live. The best source of these for fish is animal protein, specifically fish meal. Fish meal is any leftover fish scraps from processing fish into other products, mostly for human and cat consumption. Fish meal is perfectly safe and healthy. The best plant source is soy, but this can only make up 50% of the total protein. Soy does not contain all the essential amino acids fish need to survive.

Fat

Fats are used for energy, insulation and hormone production. In most fish, fats should be 15-25% of the total diet. Just like humans taking fish oil supplements, fish also require N-3 fatty acids that they cannot fabricate themselves. Vegetable oils have very few N-3 fatty acids. Fish can become obese with overfeeding, so try not to feed your fish your love!

Carbohydrates

The primary energy source in food is poorly digested in fish. High levels of carbohydrate rich treats can actually cause liver malfunction. Omnivores should only have 25-40% of their diet from carbohydrates, whereas carnivores require <20%.

Vitamins

Fish require most of their water and fat soluble vitamins from their diet. This includes vitamins A, C, D, E & K. Vitamin A deficiencies can lead to skeletal deformities, and lack of vitamins C & E decrease immune function. As we mentioned previously, these vitamins are the first nutritional component to leech out of food pellets and flakes.

Minerals (ASH)

No, ash does not mean that charcoal particles are mixed in as filler. Ash measures the mineral content of the diet. Most fish get their minerals from the surrounding water, so there is very little need for supplementation in the diet. Phosphorus is one of the main requirements from food, but only 0.3%.

Spotting Quality Food

Consider the various protein sources in a bag of fish food. If there are additional protein supplements listed, or multiple protein sources, this indicates a poor protein source and therefore, poor quality diet. Know the scientific names of all the vitamins and make sure your food contains all the essentials. A “vitamin mix” is perfectly acceptable.

Color Enhancing Food

Some koi diets contain color enhancers to bring out the red pigments in the skin. This is done through the addition of carotenoids, including synthetic materials, yeasts, bacteria, fungi, krill/shrimp and algae. These foods should be few very sparingly and only a short period of time.

How much to feed?

You’ve heard of our 5-minute rule, yes? You can apply it to all fish, not just koi. Always consider the size of the stomach in a fish. Provided you are not reading this zoomed in, the stomach on your betta fish is only this big –> o It’ll only take 4-5 of the tiny pellets and 1-2 of the larger pellets to fill that stomach. Bettas are repeat offenders for eating too much and not being able to pass large balls of poop. We are happy to recommend different feeding strategies based on your system.

If you have any questions about fish food, please contact our office directly: hospital@cafishvet.com or (831) 346-6151

Top 5 Fish Mistakes – #3: Poor Nutrition

Top 5 Fish Mistakes – #3: Poor Nutrition

Fish medicine has come a long way in the last few decades and with that comes more knowledge about what fish a supposed to eat. Long gone are the days of flake-only diet. You have options for pellets, frozen food, live food, on and on for any species you desire to keep. A little bit of research goes a long way in order to provide your fish with a decent diet. Check out liveaquaria.com for a good comprehensive view on what your fish is supposed to be eating.

Keep in mind the size of your fish. Note how big their mouth is. If they can’t get their mouth around the food you feed them, they will not be able to eat! For tiny fish, flake is the best all-around staple diet. It can be supplemented with live or frozen food if you prefer. For medium size fish, pick a diet that is appropriate to their species and mouth size. Fish with large mouths can be fed a wider variety of foods, but they need a fish-pellet diet to stay at optimum health.

Once open, fish food will not keep for more than 6 months. Keep that in mind when purchasing your bag of food. You will need to use it all in 6 months. Flake food degrades even faster, due to its increased surface area. The first component to break down is vitamin C, an important component in health and immunity. Other vitamins follow soon after, so make sure you’re replacing your food every 6 months.

How much are you feeding your fish? Like our land-based pets, sometimes we feed our love to our pets, causing them to gain excess weight. We recommend checking out our feeding guidelines to give you some starting points. Remember that fish metabolism is temperature dependent!

Need some feed suggestions? Check out our store, Santa Cruz Koi!

Koi Feeding 101

Koi Feeding 101

What do I feed my koi?

Figuring out the right food to feed your fish can be a tricky task. Remember, unlike your fluffy pets, a fish’s metabolism is tied to the water temperature. Please keep in mind that this is different from the ambient (air) temperature! All pond owners should make sure they have a reliable thermometer in their pond.

Below 55 degrees F: Koi do not have a speedy enough metabolism to breakdown any food. It can sit in their stomachs and rot. DO NOT FEED – ANYTHING.

Between 55 and 65 degrees F: Koi need an easily digestible food, preferably one with a wheat germ base. Ultra Balance Maintenance feed is a good choice. Your pond needs to be between these temperatures for 5 hours minimum in order for your fish to completely digest their meal.

Above 65 degrees F: Koi can eat an all-season, higher protein food at these temperatures. However, they can stick with the wheat germ food in order to minimize their growth. Wheat germ can be an all-season alternative for those who want to keep their fish a bit smaller. All-season foods typically have higher protein, with some specialty diets promoting color enhancement. We recommend Ultra Balance Growth feed as a higher temperature diet.

How much do I feed my koi?

We get asked this question all the time. The simple answer is that there is no set measurable amount for fish feeding. We recommend the 5 minute method: Sprinkle a tiny bit of food into the pond for the fish and after they’ve eaten it all, sprinkle a bit more. Continue for 5 minutes, then stop. This will prevent excess food from ending up in your filtration and adding to your water quality woes.

When do I feed my koi?

For ponds without a lot of direct sunlight, it is best to feed your koi midday, around noon or 1pm, when your pond is warmest and your koi have a high metabolism.

For ponds with a lot of direct sunlight, it is best to feed in the morning or evening, when your pond is nice and warm, but not so warm where your fish do not want to eat.

Again, these recommendations are temperature dependent. Check your thermometer at least a few times a day and see when your pond reaches its peak and how high the peak goes. Some ponds reaching into the mid- to high-80s or higher may see fish that are not interested in eating.

What else can I feed my koi?

In addition to their regular, balanced diet, there are many snacks available to koi. Some like fruit, such as watermelon and oranges. Others like lettuce. Experiment with some healthy snacks before reaching for the dried krill candy. And, as always, ask us any questions you may have!